Denver police officer justified in fatal January officer-involved shooting

A Denver Police Department officer will not face criminal charges after he shot and killed a Bloods gang member who was wanted for armed robbery and who held multiple people at gunpoint during a January chase.

The pursuit started on Jan. 26 in the Montbello neighborhood as the Denver police gang unit tried to find 19-year-old Dovion Perkins to arrest him on warrants for three armed robberies and a gun possession charge, according to a letter written by 17th Judicial District Attorney Dave Young. But Perkins fled officers with a woman and child in his car, leading police on a chase that stretched nine miles through two counties before ending with the fatal shooting in Aurora.

The police officers did not chase Perkins’ SUV but the Denver police helicopter followed him from above as he left Montbello and drove into Aurora, the letter said. The helicopter crew relayed Perkins’ path to officers in their cars, narrating as he struck parked cars and drove in the wrong lane on East Colfax Avenue.

While fleeing, Perkins held a woman driving a Chevrolet Cruze at gunpoint and then stole her car, the letter said.  At that point, a Denver police lieutenant authorized officers in their cars to chase Perkins, the letter said.

Officers Eric Leon and Ronald Espinosa began pursuing Perkins along Colfax Avenue as he drove west in the eastbound lane. They were in the westbound lane, the letter said.

As Perkins turned off Colfax Avenue onto Airport Boulevard he wrecked the Cruze. He then got out of that car and ran toward a minivan with his gun pointed toward the driver, the letter said. Leon left his car to chase Perkins.

Perkins ran past the minivan and then attempted to carjack a Toyota Rav4, the letter said. Perkins was pulling the driver out of the SUV and pointing a gun at him when Leon fired his first shots.

The Toyota driver was able to escape and then Perkins pointed his gun at Leon, who continued firing. Leon fired his 9 mm pistol 11 times, striking Perkins five times, according to the letter. Perkins died at the scene.

Police found a loaded .40-caliber handgun in the Rav4 that Perkins was trying to carjack. They also found a loaded .380 caliber pistol in the Cruze that had been stolen by Perkins, the letter said.

Because Perkins was holding others at gunpoint and aimed a pistol at Leon, the officer was justified because his life and the lives others were in imminent danger, the letter said.

“Although a tragic end, Officer Leon’s actions were under these circumstances reasonable and necessary,” Young wrote. “Under these patently, life-threatening circumstances, Officer Leon made a reasoned, albeit split-second, strategic decision.”

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